WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 22, 2009) -- Automating the Army's forms-based business processes is saving time, money -- and trees.

Until recently, even if a form was filled out electronically, it was printed, signed, and processed on paper. The Army Publishing Directorate now uses an e-forms program incorporating digital-signature software to allow users to complete forms-based business processes electronically.

Now users can fill out, digitally sign, and e-mail forms to the appropriate individuals, who can digitally sign and e-mail them back.

When APD launched the e-forms initiative, its primary goals were improving efficiency and reducing cost.

Those goals have been met. A single form recently traversed four countries electronically to be approved within an hour.

The program, however, can also be seen as a "green initiative," eliminating paper-intensive processes in the Army. The 2009 Army's Earth Day message urges everyone to do a part to help save the environment:

"As we continue our efforts to minimize the Army 'bootprint' on Earth, we ask every member of the Army team this Earth Day to rededicate to being good stewards of our environment to 'Sustain the Mission - Secure the Future,'" states the message signed by Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston.

All Army users with a common access card can help minimize the Army bootprint by using digital-signature-enabled electronic forms. Users can access the forms through the Army Knowledge Online home page using the FORMS button in the top menu bar.

APD has converted about 1,200 Department of the Army forms to e-forms; more than 410 are digital-signature-enabled with more to come. Other commonly used forms, such as OPM 71 (Request for Leave), are also digital-signature-enabled and available through the AKO FORMS portal.

Anyone with problems applying a digital signature can contact APDFCMP@conus.army.mil

APD is part of the Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army.

(Debbie Sollosi serves in the Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army.)